Thursday, November 30, 2017

What is Biodiversity?

Among all complicated terminologies environmentalists often use to sound clever, biodiversity is the jewel in the crown. It is like when smokers say, “Do you have a smoke?” or when a priest shouts, “Jesus Christ!” – yes, with an exclamation mark. As complicated as it may sound, biodiversity is basically just a little bit smarter way of saying everything; well, almost everything.

All living organisms in the world are connected to each other both in direct and indirect ways. While they do live and exist in different habitats, every single creature contributes to the formation of larger sustainable ecosystem. Planet Earth is filled with multiple ecosystems which also correlate with each other; because mutual relations have always been undertaken with profound silence and stealth, it can take years to observe how the interactions actually work. Not to mention a group of high-paying scientists, nutritious supplies, and a bunch of equipment worth millions of dollars.

What is Biodiversity
A bed is a good example of biodiversity; it has you, bacteria in your body, dog, flea in its fur, a cup of tea from yesterday, and of course bed bugs.
Non living things yet naturally occurring components of ecosystem, for examples air and water, are inseparable parts of biodiversity. Although they do not display characteristics of life such as growth and metabolism, living organisms will find it hard to sustain their existence in the absence of those components. Both unmanaged and managed ecosystems are parts of biodiversity. No one will blame you for thinking that biodiversity is comprised of only unmanaged ecosystems such as wild jungle, oceans, national parks, and mature preserves. As usual, you are wrong but anybody else unfortunately has to respect your opinion. Managed areas like city parks, croplands, plantations, and even farms also play important roles in maintaining the level of biodiversity all around the world – in fact, they have their own biodiversity, albeit small.

That is how life on Earth works, that is the simplest biodiversity definition possible.

Biodiversity is not evenly distributed on Earth; tropical forests are the richest as they house 90% of all species, but it exists everywhere including oceans and other aquatic ecosystems, deserts, and grasslands. Because humans have already used about 24% of the entire planet’s terrestrial surface for cultivated or managed systems, it becomes crucial that the decision to create every new similar system is backed with educated considerations concerning the sustainability of its unmanaged counterparts.

Biodiversity Loss

People need to understand that their existence also largely depend on plants, animals, water, atmosphere, and the balance between them. In case you don’t know yet, a lot of medications use the chemicals found in many different species of plants and animals which live thanks to good supply of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You will die without clean water filtered naturally by the soil layers and purified by microorganisms in them. More than 60% of public water supply comes from natural sources such as river streams and lakes. Meat taken from animals and leaves harvested from vegetables are parts of your daily menu; beer is made of mostly vegetables, yeast, and water unless you add food dye.

Those things that you need on daily basis are provided by or at least exist thanks to other living and non-living organisms in nature. Yes you can buy milk and cheese in a grocery store indeed, but it does not mean the store or the factories can make the products out of nothing. Animals that give you their meats and plants that give you fruits also depend on the existence of others species. This is why biodiversity loss is a serious threat ahead of us. Main causes of biodiversity loss are as follows:

  • Over exploitation: over-fishing and over-hunting have significantly reduced the number of species on Earth. Such decline is not by natural causes, putting risk of extinction to the species and others which depend on them to survive. Of course your salmon comes from fish farm, but the farmer will take millions of smaller fish to feed their commodities.
  • Alien species: the introduction of an invasive species to new areas can destroy biodiversity because they will prey on the native species. If you put a school of piranha into Yukon, chances are they will annihilate the salmon. Same thing happens if you put an alligator into a pool of Koi – the reptile eats the fish, not the other way around; also, remember that alligator is the reptile.
  • Habitat loss: land-uses for residential or agricultural purposes mean the loss of natural habitat for wild animals and plants.
  • Pollution: plants and animals cannot adapt quick enough to the changing environment due to pollution produced by human activities.

Species richness is one of the measures to identify the level of biodiversity. It has been established that all organisms, regardless of how small they are - such as bacteria and fungi - have roles to maintain steady balance of life on Earth including bed bugs in your bed and the bugs in theirs.

There cannot be an overabundance of specific species while too few of others. The nature has its own way to keep the numbers checked, but humans often interfere and cause serious damage. It is now our responsibility to maintain biodiversity by protecting the rights of other species to not only exist and but also thrive.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What are the Millennials?

Starting in the early 20th century until today, Americans have gone through five distinct known generations:
  • Greatest Generation (born 1924 or earlier): they experienced the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They were teenagers back then, who probably had little chance to actually enjoy some leisure times but they prevailed with great struggles.
  • Silent Generation (born 1925-1945): too young to see some actions in World War II but too old to enjoy the Summer of Love, the generation has tendency to conform to rules and actually earned success that way.
  • Baby Boomers (born 1943-1964): following the victory in World War II, their teenage years were filled with new cars, civil rights movement, protest against Vietnam War, and rock n’ roll.
  • Generation X (born 1965-1979): the only generation that does not want to be defined in any way, hence the name. Apparently the letter “X” represents something mysterious; who knew.
  • Millenials (born 1980 – 2000): sometimes it is also referred to as Generation Y, this is the only generation you are allowed to make joke about. If you exclude the 9/11 tragedy and the wars afterwards, life has been quite easy for them. When they are not having their teeth whitened, they must be complaining why they cannot be superheroes; some of them only visit the library for the Internet connection to access the Pirate Bay.
The categorization is based not only on birth years but also significant events during that same period; without the latter factor, you might as well call them very old, too old to use a laptop, boring old people, smarty pants, and smartphone-addicted people – in that particular order. Thankfully each generation is marked with certain social economy conditions or political circumstances in which they have lived through.

You may also notice that Millenial Generation is the only category currently in productive years. The oldest of them are 37 years old and the youngest are still teenagers. Some of them are still in college classes and pretending to be reading something to impress their professors, while others are in the workforce even if they only do something when the boss is around.

If you are one of the millennials, there must have been some circumstances where you hear someone bashing your generation as if there is nothing else more important happening in the world. It is no secret that Gen Y is, more often than not, associated with some characteristics that give them bad reputation. Typical criticisms will revolve around, once again, things with the least of importance; for examples the way people of millennials age never get tired of taking selfies, watching one of the Kardashian’s behind, and whining about the noise from a supercar driven by a Baby Boomer.

What are the Millennials
Sometimes it is necessary to a selfie to show that you are taking a selfie
Millennials have successfully created presumptive stereotypes as narcissistic, lazy, selfish, shallow, and entitled to everything. Some will argue that it is the millennials themselves who developed the stereotypes, while others are convinced that older generations simply want to make their younger peers look bad. Regardless of who started the unfavorable judgment, millennials seem to respond in the best way possible: mind their own businesses and walk on. You’d also be happy to hear that the criticisms are not entirely correct. Even if they are, the characteristics are most likely enforced upon the generation by political circumstances or social economy conditions of the period.

One of the most prominent events was September 11 catastrophe and the wars that followed. Let us not forget about the disclosure of top-secret NSA documents about the country’s mass surveillance activities on its own citizens, causing a serious distrust in governmental conducts. On the more epic scale, millennials are also upset with the revelations that older generations have brought serious threat to the Earth in the form of global warming; in this case, they basically inherit problems that are so big and too difficult to reverse. Animal extinctions due to habitats degradation also disturb them quite a lot. The combination of all those things added with the fact that Baby Boomers and Generation X actually got to watch Led Zeppelin concerts are troubling the Gen Y.

Of course not every person in millennials age range can be generalized into the stereotype’s characteristics. Some (if not many) of them are even remotely close to the negative reputations attached to the entire generation. If you read the Millennials Report published The Council of Economic Advisers in October 2014, you will find a lot of surprisingly positive assessments of the generation in almost all aspects of life including economy, education, politics, social, health, and environment. Since it has been well-established that reading a long report is too taxing for your brains, here is a brief review with the usual bullet points you all love:
  • Millennials now represent the largest and most diverse generation in the United States. Many of them are immigrants or children of immigrants.
  • It is the only generation that has been truly shaped by technology advances, especially computational power. Compared to previous generation, millennials have quicker, easier, faster access to information about almost everything; some of them never pay for reading the news on their smartphones although they do have to walk to a public park for free Internet.
  • They focus quality of life more than money. It sounds quite like a lie, but it is not. In terms of works, millennials are basically the same as previous generation. Everybody wants to be successful so their children don’t have to work as hard in the future. According to the report, earnings are still less important than creativity for millennials. The generation wants the freedom to be creative more than they crave for promotion.
  • Gen Y values friends, families, and communities. In other words, millennials want to have creative job with creative schedule so they have more free time for vacation. They also want to be leaders of communities and make positive impression on their kids.
  • Millennials are the most educated generation in the United States. At least 61% of them have attended college. The decision to pursue higher education was likely caused by the surge of unemployment rate in the aftermath of Great Recession.
  • Thanks to Affordable Care Act, millennials actually get to see what a health insurance policy looks like.
  • Women of Generation Y have more labor market.
  • Millennials stay single for longer period than the previous generations.
  • Many people of Gen Y are not homeowners or individual renters. In some way, it helps the environment because the unused land can be turned into greenery – one with free Wi-Fi.
Millennials are arguably in their infancies in terms of labor market and political positions. The existing trend that both Baby Boomers and Generation X seem to harshly criticize their younger peers really is quite persistent, and anyone can see that it happens because the previous generations are still in power today.

Political leaders, company owners, professionals, and employers are the territories where millennials must comply with every single consensus created by their older counterparts. No generation has taken as much bashing as Millennials do but it does not change the fact that they will be in the forefront of politics, economics, education, and basically people’s perspectives towards reshaping the environment for decades to come – if only they could stop taking pictures of their lunch.

What is Global Warming?

You may think you understand what global warming is from several posts as you wandered through the big blue beautiful world of Facebook no so long ago. But then again, Facebook is almost always an unreliable source of information, so we should assume that your claim is also bogus. Just like most people, you would try to use many scientific terminologies and jargons that you hardly understand yourself to explain about global warming to a bunch of school kids, only to impress their teacher who indeed is quite attractive and apparently still single.

The shortest and simplest yet accurate definition of global warming is the increase of average global temperature to the point where the effects are potentially irreversible, and that’s it; there is no need to use beloved words like anthropogenic, infrared radiation, fluorinated gases, industrial revolution, and many other fun terms of similar kind. As long as the kids only ask for a definition, you are good to go. Unless the children start to ask questions about the little details, which they rarely do, you will not need to keep on reading.

Here are several of the most important global warming facts everybody should understand:

  • There is no universally accepted definition of how low or high Earth’s average temperature should be, so different organizations and groups all around the world may use different numbers. The 20th century average global temperature was around 57° Fahrenheit (13.9° Celsius).
  • What matters the most is the trend of the increase. Regardless of the numbers used, there has been steady trend of increase that has emerged from year to year indicating that Earth is indeed going to be hotter in the coming decades.
  • Annual temperature increase happens in small number from 0.01°C – 1.45°C, based on a chart by NOAA. It may not sound like much, but it does not seem if the increase will stop anytime soon, unless we do a lot of things to prevent that. Continuous increase will bring negative impacts to the climate and eventually make the Earth less habitable than it is today.

What is Climate Change?

When you talk about weather, you basically refer to everything that the forecaster on TV did not say; for example if the forecaster said it would be a rainy day, there is no need to bring an umbrella. In case a storm or hurricane was also predicted, call the TV station whether or not the forecaster was lying. Weather is related to humidity, temperature, rain, cloudiness, and umbrella. Also, the weather can change in matter of hours and it may not be the same somewhere else. It can be dreary rainy day in your house, but sunny comfortable day in your neighbor’s. Don’t ask to switch house just yet because everything can change within the next 30 minutes.

Climate is pretty much like weather, but in much bigger scale. Unlike weather, climate takes very long time to change; you need a geological time scale to make a note of its occurrence. It is the average weather condition in a place. Assuming everything is normal and people never drove cars or turned on the factory machinery, Earth’s climate would be as it was millions of years ago. Unfortunately that did not happen; human activities especially during the last couple of centuries have generated greenhouse gases of biblical amount. The result is global warming, which leads to un-recommended climate change hardly suitable for picnic, swimming, breathing, and living.

Global warming and climate change are only almost interchangeable. The former focuses only on the increase of temperature, while the latter is more accurate to emphasize pollution of atmosphere which could result in a variety of extreme weather events rather than just the warming problem.

The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has a more specific definition. The convention defines it as a change of climate attributed either directly or indirectly to human activities. To be more specific, the activities are limited only to those that contribute to the alteration of global atmospheric composition. So if you’ve spent your entire life being a vegetarian and a cyclist at the same time, you have every right to plead not guilty although the effects of global warming will get to you anyway.

Causes of Global Warming

Global warming occurs because there are just too much greenhouse gases than the atmosphere can handle. Some popular names in the category include carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that keep the Earth warm enough so you don’t have to wear sweater under jacket all year long. Naturally occurring gas such as ozone even doubles as a shield against harmful UV radiation. The tricky part is that there should be just the right amount of greenhouse gases to trap comfortable level of heat; it should keep the Earth warm but without overheating issues. This is known as the greenhouse effect.

Human activities which involve the burning of fossil fuels are the largest contributors to the increase of pollutants, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). Some of the most common examples are coal-burning power plants to produce electricity and combustion engine emission. The combination of those releases a mindboggling amount of CO2 into the atmosphere: nearly 4 billion tons every year, and that’s in the US alone. You probably think that driving a Toyota Prius is cool – in literal sense, of course - but you still contribute to global warming anytime you charge the batteries using electricity produced by a coal-based power plant; well, at least a fully-charged Prius is more environment-friendly than a Volvo XC60 T8: turbocharged and supercharged.

What is Global Warming
Riding the bicycle is much better than taking pictures of it
CO2 is responsible for more than 60% of global warming. Taking the second place is methane (CH4) produced by various sources such as wastewater, garbage, rice crops, and gas from livestock. Land use and deforestation also indirectly increase the amount of greenhouse gas because trees help absorb CO2. There are many major potential effects of global warming, and some are in fact happening right now:
  • Relatively quick and sudden change of climate. This means living organisms do not have time to adapt to the new environment. In normal circumstances, climate takes millions of years to change.
  • Flooding, intense storms, prolonged drought, and heat waves happen more often. Sudden change in climate leads to extreme weather events. Regions or countries without adequate financial resources will find it hard to recover.
  • Animals will go extinct. Wild animals cannot adapt to the changing habitat – due to global warming – quickly enough to survive.
  • Melting ice at the poles increases heat even further. Polar ice helps deflect heat and reflect sunlight.
  • Sea levels are rising because the water is warm, and therefore expanding in volume.
The effects of global warming will then affect your life in many ways, but there are things you can do to slow down the increasing temperature. Reducing the release of greenhouse gas is the most effective such as by using clean renewable energy in your home, take a walk instead of a drive, and grow big trees outside obviously.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What is Cloud Computing?

When your brother tells you to shut down your laptop because he is cloud computing but you consume all the already low bandwidth to play explanatory videos on YouTube about cooking instant noodle, it does not literally mean that he is going to visit a bunch of cloud and does his work from there. The term cloud is just a metaphor for a method of accessing and storing data over the Internet. Before you read further about cloud computing and feel a severe headache afterwards, it will be easier to grasp the concept by understanding its opposite first, on-premise computing.

Devices that come with internal hard drives or have compatible ports for external ones can be used for on-premise computing. You probably use such device on daily basis such as laptop, smartphone, digital audio player, and desktop computer. The hard drive stores data so you can access them easily without Internet connection for example when you view photos on a smartphone or play movies on your laptop. In both situations, the data (photos and movies) are stored on the devices’ local storage drive – microSD for the smartphone and HDD or SSD for the laptop. The data is quickly and easily accessible from your device only, unless you are connected with other computers on a local area network.

What is Cloud Computing
This guy gets the idea of cloud computing monumentally wrong
Assuming your home network connects multiple computers, you can access data originally stored from your brother’s laptop too. This is not recommended if he has a collection of explicit contents that require parental advisory, which he most likely does and you will eventually watch anyway. Connectivity at this level still counts as on-premise computing. Even if you have a dedicated NAS (Network Attached Storage) hardware at home and access data from it, you cannot say that you are cloud computing because that would be a lie.

What Constitutes Cloud Computing?

For your activity to be considered cloud computing, you need to access data over the Internet; data can be files, documents, photos, videos, images, and even programs or applications. The main reason is that that actual hard drive is not hardwired to your device and located on a different network. On the more sophisticated level, a large network consisting of dozens of computers can utilize cloud computing so users can do complex data processing and synchronize in real time.

Difference with Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Connection

With P2P, there is no dedicated server. Any computer connected in the same network can act as the server, but the network has no central storage and it lacks authentication of users. It also means that each user on the network is able to access and share files equally with others.

Cloud computing requires a central dedicated server/storage device accessible only via Internet by at least one user/client. When one user’s system crashes, the others can still access the server without a glitch. Also, the central server has a list of usernames and passwords of every authenticated user. It is possible to set up a system in which certain users have more access than others; this way, your brother can keep his collection away and safe from you and your parents.

Common Examples of Cloud Computing

Although cloud computing sounds quite sophisticated - mostly because it indeed is – even a simpleton like you can use it easily. In fact, you probably have been utilizing it for quite a while. Using emails is one of the most common examples because the actual emails are not stored in your computer but in a dedicated server owned by the provider, unless you are using POP protocol. Since you don’t know what POP protocol is, chances are you are using the cloud computing version. If you watch movies, play games, listen to music, and edit documents via Internet, then it is likely that cloud computing makes those possible. Some of the most popular cloud computing providers are as follows:

  • Google Drive: it has a complete list cloud computing services you need to edit documents, store data, and see where you are going with an online map. If you have an Android smartphone, and let us just assume you know how to use it properly, chances are you utilize a lot of the services quite often.
  • Dropbox: is stores data and syncs them across your devices.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive: it is a storage service for essentially every digital you buy from the store for examples e-books, MP3 files, and images.

There are other more complex uses of cloud computing than sending and receiving emails including but not limited to host blogs or websites, create and deploy apps through microservices, analyze data for bookkeeping purposes, store data as backup for local drive, and stream movies or music.

What is Ozone?

You have been living a dangerous life on daily basis without even realizing it. You inhale polluted air mixed with your friend’s bad breath, eat hamburgers cooked by a chef with dandruff problems on his mustache, drive under the influence of heavy metal music, and wear thongs while exercising. It all sounds very dangerous, but they are nothing compared to UV radiation from the sun; either that or the lack of Internet connection. While one the most common causes of a disconnected Internet is the fact that you forget to pay the bill, UV radiation is a persistent risk of living preventable only by the existence of Ozone layer.

What is Ozone
Ozone is somewhere around and circling the Earth, definitely
Before you begin to care deeply about life on Earth, you must understand what Ozone actually is. You have probably come across the term before from watching TV which you do very often or reading a book which on the other hand is a genuine rarity.

Earth is the most habitable planet in the solar system because of two major reasons:
  • The planet provides useful stuffs that all living creatures need such as air, carbon, water, and terrestrial television. It does not give you money, but you can earn revenues by selling photographs of the Earth to NASA and Garmin.
  • Everything on Earth is well-insulated by atmosphere, so the temperature on the surface is neither too cold nor too warm. Some places are indeed extremely cold but it is not impossible for human to live there, albeit temporarily. For more information on this, feel free to visit the North Pole.
Atmosphere does three main functions: it keeps the Earth’s surface warm enough, provides oxygen, and protects everything beneath it from UV radiation generated by the sun. Major portions of the atmosphere are comprised of nitrogen and oxygen or the air you breathe. Both gases, however, cannot retain heat but fortunately the atmosphere also has what it takes to do the job; it is called greenhouse gases which include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, methane, and ozone. Too much of those cause something that everybody calls global warming.
Ozone is one of greenhouse gases, which retains heat, but it multitasks as a protective layer to block ultraviolet radiation. Unless you skip chemistry class far too often to find Pokemon, you should know that the chemical formula for Ozone is O3 so it consists of three Oxygen atoms. Based on that definition, Ozone is actually just a special form of Oxygen.

Where is Ozone?

Earth’s atmosphere has 6 layers and is comprised of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen; the remaining 1% consists of many things which may include water vapor, dust particles, bacteria from your mouth, and everything that comes out of cars’ exhaust pipes. Both troposphere (the lowest atmospheric layer) and stratosphere (the second lowest atmospheric layer) have ozone.

In the stratosphere, Ozone is formed when an Oxygen molecule (O2) is broken apart by ultraviolet radiation; the result is two Oxygen atoms that no longer bind together. Each of the atoms is highly reactive and actively seeking for new partners. Every time an atom successfully binds an Oxygen molecule, Ozone is produced. Ozone does protect Earth from harmful UV radiation, but it forms thanks to the radiation in the first place. The process is pretty much like a divorce, but without the subpoena and custody issues.

In the troposphere, chemical reactions which primarily involve pollutant gases from fossil fuel combustion can also produce ozone. Sunlight is required to complete the process. As soon as tropospheric ozone reacts with surfaces of plants or soil, however, they are destroyed.

How Does Ozone Block UV Radiation?

In many scientific books for children, you will read that Ozone blocks UV radiations. This is neither entirely wrong nor totally accurate. Don’t blame the book – the writer is still smarter than you. What really protects you from getting sunburn and immune system suppression due to UV radiation is the relentless Ozone-Oxygen production cycle that happens in three stages:
  1. When UV light reaches the stratosphere, it reacts with Oxygen molecule (O2) and breaks the bond. The separation of Oxygen molecule into two Oxygen atoms consumes the energy generated by the UV light.
  2. The resulting two Oxygen atoms bind themselves with two Oxygen molecules. These reactions produce two Ozone molecules.
  3. The remaining energy generated by UV light is then utilized to break down O3.
As all three stages are completed, UV light only has about 2% of energy that reaches Earth’s surface. In other words, the Ozone helps eliminate the dangerous effects of harmful radiation by 98%. It is worth mentioning that only the short-wavelength UV light is affected by Ozone. Long-wavelength radiations do reach the Earth but they are much less harmful than their shorter counterparts.

Friday, November 24, 2017

What is VPN?

VPN is Virtual Private Network, but understanding the term is more than just knowing what it stands for. When you connect to the Internet, you use either broadband or dial-up modem but let us just assume that you do it with free Wi-Fi more often than not. Such connection goes through an open or public network, which means the server can identify where you access it from and some other information probably including your name and whether or not you are wearing any appropriate piece of clothing.

What is VPN
Putting a screensaver that says "security" on your phone won't make the connection any safer
With VPN, you go about your business with the Internet through a safe tunnel sprinkled with layers after layers privacy protection so no one knows if you are sitting in front of somebody else’s shed because that is where you can get best Wi-Fi signal. Unlike with public network in which you connect directly to the Internet, VPN creates a secure link to help keep you anonymous and conceal the data or information being transferred. In the old days VPN was used mostly by companies and giant corporations to transfer confidential pieces of information, but now it is available widely for people at large and some VPN services are actually available free of charge. Yes, you can take advantage of it without even spending a dime so you can put it into your piggy bank to buy a secondhand pair of shoes next year.

Connecting to the Internet means receiving data such as documents, photos of your neighbors, images of cars you cannot afford, videos of a sleeping cat, and everything else depending on your request or search term. On the other end of the connection, a server (one that provides the data you need) also gathers data about you such as location and IP address so it can send the most relevant piece of information for your surfing pleasure.

VPN intercepts the connection by adding another layer of information relay. When you run VPN software on your computer and access the Internet, the software creates a private secure link to hide or fake your identity and location. It is as if you are somebody else in different location. In normal circumstances – without VPN – the Internet gathers information from your device, but this no longer applies. Every single one of your request will be sent to VPN server, not directly to the Internet as you may expect. It is the VPN server’s job to forward the request to the Internet, receive the information, and then send it back to your computer. Put in mind that adding another layer to the connectivity can reduce the Internet speed. There will be delay in the speed of information being requested and received because it has to go through a third-party server.

Free VPN tends to attract many users, including you and millions of others. Because you don’t want to pay for the service, the server often limits your bandwidth. Low speed is not uncommon consequence of free VPN, so it is only fair to patiently embrace the loading screen with positive attitude; screaming at your screen does make the Internet faster.


One of the biggest advantages of using VPN is the fact that you can browse the Internet anonymously. All data involved in the communication are encrypted across the connection. It is an effective precautionary measure to prevent hackers or certain websites from mining your data. Anytime somebody tries to figure out where and who you are, the request will always refer back to the VPN server.

VPN services have multiple servers located in different countries. Usually you are allowed to choose which server to use. For example, if you are using a server located in Hong Kong, the websites you access will think that you are in Hong Kong when in fact you are at a coffee shop in Fairfax or even South Pole.

People who travel often overseas yet need to constantly check their work email back home to see if last month’s paycheck has arrived can use VPN to unblock some restrictions. Certain countries actually block traffic or Internet users originated from foreign locations. If you are travelling to Iran to see what the fuss is all about that the country is mentioned too many times in the news, chances are you will need VPN to post a photo of your lunch on a camel to Facebook, because the social media is currently banned in the country.

What is Electoral College?

In the United States, the president and vice president are not chosen directly by the people but by a group of people known as Electoral College. The term is also often used to refer to the presidential election system in which they cast their votes. You probably think that it is a name of an educational institution located somewhere in Washington, D.C., but you would be wrong as usual. So when a president wins the vote by Electoral College, it does not mean that the president has a presidential degree from the institution; there is no Presidential Degree program offered in any college, in case you are wondering.

What is Electoral College
Some people get in line to vote, others do to get long trousers

Approaching an Election Day in the United States, voters go the polls but not to vote directly for a presidential candidate. Instead they will vote to elect the electors who will then elect the president on the Election Day. This process is often referred to as popular vote. If that sounds overly confusing because there are too many “elect” words used, you can consider the entire system as mailing process. You write a letter to your friend, put the letter inside an envelope attached with a mailing address, and give it to the postman; your responsibility ends here. It is the postman’s job to deliver the letter to your friend. Based on this stupid analogy, the postman is an elector and your friend is the presidential candidate.

Each state has certain number of approved electors based on population. In other words, more populated state gets higher number of electors compared to their less populated counterparts. Therefore, the number of electors differs from state to state; some have more than a couple of dozens, while others only have three. Currently there are 538 electors which consist of 435 representatives, 100 senators, and 3 more electors allocated to Washington, D.C. Here is a list of electoral votes allocations based on 2010 census. The following allocations were effective for the 2016 presidential elections and will still be effective for the 2020:

Number of Electoral Votes
New York
North Carolina
New Jersey
South Carolina
New Mexico
West Virginia
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
District of Columbia
North Dakota
South Dakota

Minimum number is 3 because a state has at least two senators and one representative. A presidential candidate needs 270 electoral votes to elected (1 vote more than half the total number). In case you hate math because you cannot count, half of 538 is 269.


In most states, electors are selected by the political parties months prior to the presidential Election Day. Some states also allow the electors to be nominated by voters during the primaries rather than chosen in party conventions. Anybody can be an elector except when the person is holding a federal office (either appointed or elected) or has sworn an oath to support the United States Constitution but later went rogue and berserk.

There were some cases when appointed electors actually voted for the presidential candidate from the opposing party; they are called Faithless Electors. In Pennsylvania, the electors are selected by presidential campaign committee to avoid such instances. To discourage Faithless Electors even further, District of Columbia along with 29 states have passed laws to penalize Faithless Electors; according to Wikipedia, however, none of them have been enforced. Michigan takes the extra mile by actually voiding the faithless elector’s vote. As with almost anything else, it if it is written in Wikipedia, let us just assume it is accurate.

State’s Electoral Vote

Except in two states, the party that wins the popular vote sends all its electors to Washington, D.C. to cast their votes on presidential candidate on Election Day, not to visit the National Mall. Nebraska and Maine are quite different because they appoint only two electoral votes to the overall winner of popular vote in the entire states, while the rest of them are appointed to winner of congressional districts. Nebraska has three congressional districts and Maine has two.

For the Sake of Fairness

The main purpose of Electoral College system is to distribute voting power for less populated states. At the end of the day, the president and vice president are chosen based on balanced constitutional values across the country. California is the most populated state, but it represents only 10.22% of the total college.

When presidential candidates get no majority of the votes, the House of Representatives is responsible for electing the president. Each delegation from every state only has one vote regardless of the state’s population. Majority is required to win the election. Vice president is elected by the Senate; each senator also has one vote